Getting Airport Extreme to Work with Nintendo DS

May 7

I had a bit of trouble getting my new Airport Extreme (802.11n) wireless router to work with my Nintendo DS when I first set it up. Hopefully this post will help others who are having the same problem.

The Problem
The Nintendo DS can only connect to a wireless network if it is secured with an older (and less secure) WEP password (or no password at all). It also uses the 802.11b spectrum. This shouldn’t be a problem because the Airport Extreme is 802.11b+g compatible, and it lets you choose a WEP password during setup. But even when I setup the base station with a WEP password my DS still complained that my network used an incompatible security mode.

The problem seems to be with the type of WEP that the Airport uses—something called Transitional Security Network. This would seem to be a great thing to have as it claims to support older WEP-only devices, but allows other devices to connect via WPA. Unfortunately the DS will have none of that.

The Solution
I began to panic when it didn’t seem that the Airport had any options to use straight-up WEP. Did I just blow $200 on a new toy that won’t play nice with my other toys?

After some frantic Googling I stumbled upon a little secret: Open the Airport Utility app and select your base station. Choose Manual Setup from the Base Station menu (or double click the base station). Select the Airport icon and then the Wireless tab.
Here comes the kicker: Next to Radio Mode option-click the drop down menu. Suddenly there are 4 new options in this menu. Choose 802.11b/g compatible [not 802.11n (b/g compatible)—confusing, I know].

With 802.11b/g compatible selected you can now choose WEP 128 bit next to Wireless Security. Enter a password, update the base station and you should be good to go.

The Downside
The downside of this setup is twofold:

  1. WEP security is far inferior to WPA, and can be easily broken. Not a big deal if you’re just trying to prevent the upstairs neighbor from hogging your bandwidth, but could be an issue if you care at all about real security.

  2. The base station is no longer ‘n’ compatible. You’re 802.11n devices should still be able to connect via b or g, but you’ll not get the benefits of an ‘n’ network.